Daddy's Lil Darling to Dueling Grounds Derby

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9:44 am EDT

McPeek Sending A Contingent

Ken McPeek will run Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddy’s Lil Darling in the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Oaks on Sept. 10 at Kentucky Downs.

The international traveler has had quite the up-and-down year.

After finishing a very close second in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes, she rallied from far back to be runner-up to Abel Tasman in the Kentucky Oaks in the slop. Sent to England for the Epsom Oaks, Daddy’s Lil Darling followed the European practice of going to the post without a lead pony -- and she ran off. Oliver Peslier came off after being unable to pull her up, and she was scratched.

Back in the States, Daddys Lil Darling was a good fourth in the prestigious Belmont Oaks on turf, then fifth back on dirt in Saratoga’s Coaching Club American Oaks.

“I think she’s very versatile,” McPeek said. “The Scat Daddys will run on anything. I’m not concerned about switching surfaces. She needs to get back in the winner’s circle. If she wins this, she comes back in Keeneland’s Grade I Queen Elizabeth. If she doesn’t, there’s the Mrs. Revere at Churchill.”

She's Not Alone

McPeek often runs his young 2-year-olds in the mile grass races offered at Ellis Park, not so much because he thinks they are turf horses but because he believes they are distance horses.

That could work in his favor at Kentucky Downs as he runs Sky Promise in the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile. Sky Promise was third and second in a pair of dirt sprints this spring, then third on the Arlington grass before winning on turf at a mile at Ellis Park. Jack Gilligan retains the mount in the seven-furlong Juvenile.

The McPeek-trained John Tippmann looked very good winning a 6 1/2-furlong dirt maiden race in his second start at Ellis. He's never run on grass but has been training over the turf on McPeek’s Magdalena Farm and training center in Lexington with the Kentucky Downs’ undulating course in mind.

“We’ve been training him over the uphill, downhill gallops,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll have any trouble with the grass. I like the seven-eighths distance for him.”

McPeek also is sending out Classy Music, winner of an off-the-turf mile maiden race by 4 3/4 lengths at Ellis, in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies.

“They were all broken as yearlings over those gallops, so that’s not really any big deal,” he said of his young horses at his farm. “They’ve all spent time out there. They went left-handed and right-handed, uphill and downhill. I don’t suspect it’s going to be any big deal. Sky Promise has a bit of experience, too, he’s been around. He’s drawn checks everywhere at whatever distance he ran. He’s a pretty quick study. He’ll figure it out either way.”

Edited Kentucky Downs release